Hard work and a strong team behind the scenes has seen Altherm JCR Yamaha do the double, with Kirk Gibbs crowned the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s MX1 winner and Maximus Purvis taking out the MX2 title.

Well-deserved celebrations ensued after the final round of four wrapped up on Sunday, with two of the team’s riders on top of their podiums at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Team Manager Josh Coppins is a very happy man to have his riders win both the MX1 and MX2 titles in a season.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Maximus Purvis holds his 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s MX2 trophy aloft.

“I’m really so happy to get these results in MX1 and MX2. It’s my first MX1 title as a team manager and I thank Kirk for his professionalism in nailing that for us. We’ve had the red plate many times and been close many times but never quite got it done. To get the double is just incredible and I’m stoked for Max that he pulled it off.”

Coppins, who has amassed multiple national and international titles himself over his long and successful racing career, knows what it takes to win – an unbeatable crew.

“The biggest thing I’m happy about is the team. We had a really good crew this year and I feel like we worked super hard. I know everyone says that, but I think we went to the next level. These two wins are a great reward for our Altherm JCR Yamaha team – they deserved it!”

“Just because you work hard doesn’t always mean you get the rewards in motorsport. It can go either way. I’ve been on the other side plenty of times, so I’m pleased to get the final result and I’m going to enjoy it with my riders and my team. I couldn’t be prouder of them all,” he adds.

Sunshine Coast-based Gibbs knows how the rollercoaster of motocross racing goes. He won the New Zealand MX1 championship in 2018 with another brand, then just missed the title last year by a meager 5 points. This year, he bested defending champion Cody Copper by 4 points.

“It’s so awesome to win the championship again. To come so close last year and just miss out was disappointing. Everything just went really well for me this season and things started clicking for me. I was riding well and the Yamaha YZ450 was great,” Gibbs says of his successful 2020 championship where he won 6 out of 12 motos.

“Working hard with Josh during the weeks between the four rounds and with my Australian team helped me to feel really comfortable and strong, which was what I believe led to the championship win,” he adds.

Thirty-one-year-old Gibbs used his experience to manage the final round well. He won the first race and from there had a 10-point lead.

“Kirk was able to manage it and bring it home. He’s an older rider with a lot of experience. He’s won this New Zealand championship before and the Australian championship in 2015, so he knows what it takes to seal the deal,” Coppins explains.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Kirk Gibbs wins the 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s MX1 title.

Gibbs settled for second in the final two motos, knowing that he’d have the points on board to take the MX1 trophy back across The Ditch with him.

“I’m stoked to get another championship over here and I’m really stoked for Josh and Amy [Coppins] and the team. I know how much hard work that everyone that’s involved puts in. I couldn’t be any more thankful for them and my team back home for being part of it,” Gibbs says.

Mangakino’s Purvis (19) had a slightly more nail-biting road to victory on-board his Yamaha YZ250F. Coming into the final round he had a narrow 4-point lead over main rival Josiah Natzke. A second in the opening moto meant he was on track for the title but a wrong tyre choice for the second race dropped him back down the pack and piled on the pressure for the final moto. Coppins used his wealth of knowledge to help Purvis out.

“I convinced him to go back to the previous tyre from race 1 and he was a different kid in race 3. He led from pretty much start to finish,” he says.

Purvis (19) described the championship-winning feeling as “unreal” as he snatched the title by 6 points over Natzke.

“I’ve been working so hard and fighting all season and it feels so good to take the win. It definitely came down to the wire in the last race, but I wanted that win badly. I fought through a couple riders then just put my foot down, went for it, and pulled the win off,” he says.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha team’s other two riders Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont (MX1) and Christchurch-based Dylan Walsh (MX2) both finished fourth overall in their championships.

Lamont has had a rough season after sustaining heavy bruising at January’s Woodville GP, which hampered his riding for the first two national rounds. At the penultimate race meeting, he injured his thumb and had to make the best of riding through the pain there in Hawke’s Bay and again yesterday.

“The day was a struggle, but I managed to get third in qualifying. In the races I had good starts and was in the top three and went on to finish fourth in every race. Overall I ended up fourth for the championship, which is decent for what I was dealing with, I think,” Lamont says.

For 2019 British MX2 Championship winner Walsh, the high of a win in the first race on Sunday was swiftly followed by the low of a crash in the second moto.

“Then I didn’t really ride like myself after that. It’s been an awesome time racing in NZ with Josh and Ben [Townley]. I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity,” Walsh says.

His plans for the rest of 2020 are on hold now with the Coronavirus Disease affecting race calendars worldwide.

Coppins and his wife Amy would like to thank all the riders, mechanics, sponsors, supporters, fans and followers who have helped make this double championship victory possible. They are very grateful for everything and are so thrilled to walk away from the 2020 motocross season with two title-winning riders.

1st Cody Cooper – 70
2nd Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 69
3rd Hamish Harwood – 62
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 54
5th Ethan Martens – 46
1st Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 69
2nd Josiah Natzke – 67
3rd Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 63
4th James Scott – 56
5th Morgan Fogarty – 47

1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 280
2nd Cody Cooper – 276
3rd Hamish Harwood – 244
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 203
5th Ethan Martens – 176
1st Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 252
2nd Josiah Natzke – 246
3rd James Scott – 228
4th Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 224
5th Caleb Ward – 188

ALTHERM JCR YAMAHA WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS: Altherm Window Systems, JCR, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, bLU cRU, YMF, YMI, Holland Collision Centre, Ward Demolition, Star Moving, Contract Consultants, Fox, Workshop Graphics, Akrapovic, Motoseat, Motomuck, Vertex Pistons, SKF, Renthal, DID Chains & Twin Air.

Photos CLMINTIEPIX, Words Altherm JCR Yamaha

Kiwi freestyle motorcross legend Levi Sherwood has bagged the perfect vehicle for transporting his motorbikes to performances around the country – a 2020 Toyota Hiace.

As the new Hiace Ambassador, Levi will be showcasing his brand spanking new Hiace – wrapped in striking graphics designed by Levi himself – at freestyle motorcross (FMX) shows throughout the country following his retirement from FMX competitions last November.

Levi’s new ride

“I’m very excited to be partnering with Toyota with the release of their new Hiace van. The new Hiace is a great fit for me and my bike, so I’m looking forward to spending more time in the van as I travel around New Zealand riding,” Levi said.

Levi is no stranger to Toyota. He grew up in Palmerston North – the home of Toyota New Zealand – and already has a 2008 Toyota Hiace and Landcruiser on his rural Manawatu property. The Landcruiser is very handy when it comes to shifting Levi’s home-built steel FMX ramps from his workshop to his private training ground on the farm.

Toyota New Zealand’s General Manager of Marketing, Andrew Davis, said bringing Levi into the Toyota family as a Hiace Ambassador was a no-brainer.

“Levi is not only an amazing FMX rider but also a self-taught engineer who loves creating, customising and building motorcycle parts and ramps in his workshop.

“The versatile 2020 Hiace van is ideal for Levi. The van is easily customisable and can be purposed for a wide range of jobs and activities,” he said.

A new feature of the 2020 Hiace is the semi-bonnet design which helped improve its safety rating to ANCAP 5-star. Levi, who picked up several injuries during his career, is a fan of the Hiace’s safety system as it matches his personal interest in safety. He has a new business venture to make giant safe landing airbags for FMX shows and training.

As well as the sharp graphics adorning Levi’s new ZR van, the team at Toyota New Zealand in Palmerston North added a few features such as the blacked-out alloy wheels, black nudge bar and tinted glass that sets off the white van and cool black and orange graphics.

Over the past 10 years, Levi has become an international star on the FMX circuit. He wowed audiences in his first Red Bull X-Fighters competition and, despite a late call-up to replace another rider in the 2009 Mexico event, the then 17-year-old took out the first place against vastly more experienced riders.

He went on to build a career in X-Fighters and Nitro World Games. Over the past decade, Levi has been a regular rider in both the Crusty Demons and Nitro Circus shows. He is known for his dedication to training and continually pushing the boundaries in his performances.

Levi stepped back from competition at the end of 2019 and will be concentrating his time and attention into growing the sport in New Zealand and performing in shows throughout the country.

Words and Images from Toyota New Zealand

Altherm JCR Yamaha riders Kirk Gibbs (MX1) and Maximus Purvis (MX2) are two men on a mission, both storming into the lead of their Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship classes yesterday in Hawke’s Bay.

Riding their respective Yamahas in the series’ penultimate round at Ngaruroro Raceway, near Fernhill, they are the men with the upper hand in their title hunts, when the championship wraps up in Taupo, in a fortnight.

Sunshine Coast-based Gibbs was untouchable in the premier class on his YZ450 – qualifying first and winning three from three races. The top-notch results give him a 5-point lead over defending champion Cody Copper and 29-point buffer over Hamish Harwood in third.

Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Kirk Gibbs (#G) leads the MX1 field and championship standings. Photo CLIMINTIEPIX

“It was a really good day for me. I’ll go home and work on some more things that Josh [Coppins – Team Manager] and BT [Ben Townley] gave me to work on. It’s so helpful to have such good people to get information from,” Gibbs says.

He was stoked to have the points lead and had a clear plan for the final set of three races on March 15.

“I’ll go there with a good mindset and put a couple of good races in and try to bring it home,” he says of the MX1 silverware that belonged to him in 2018.

Altherm JCR Yamaha Team Manager Josh Coppins says Gibbs has all the hallmarks of a “true professional.”

“We work hard for him and he works hard for us. We’re very happy with his performance. Good starts, good riding and three from three. He came in from 6 points down and goes away 5 points up, so he achieved an 11-point swing.”

Purvis went 2-1-4, with the final race result slightly lower after the 19-year-old Mangakino flyer crashed on the last lap, while in second.

“He was trying to pass for the lead, and it cost him 4 points, which was a shame. He’s just a young fella and maybe should’ve settled for second and come out with an 8-point lead rather than 4 points but you’ve also got to admire him trying to make the pass. He finished second for the day, went from 8 points behind to 4 points ahead [of Josiah Natzke] in the championship and took the red plate, which is exciting,” Coppins says.

Purvis adds: “It definitely feels good to be leading the points going into the last round. I’ve been trying to chip away at it and now I just have to finish it off with some good results at Taupo.”

Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh displayed some of the form that saw the 22-year-old crowned the British Motocross Championship’s MX2 winner last year, with a 4-2-1 results’ set on his Yamaha YZ250F.

“Round three was a big improvement for me. We made huge changes during the week on the suspension and it paid off. I was able to get the round win and show what I was capable of,” Walsh says.

Coppins says the changes to Walsh’s Yamaha helped make him “much more comfortable and straight away achieve a better result.”

“We have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks. Together with Ben [Townley] and Dylan, we will have some meetings to work out a clear plan moving forward. Dylan is sitting fourth in the championship but what’s most important for us and for him, is that he is starting to find his groove with Yamaha, and he got an overall win. It was harder and took longer than we expected but I’m happy for him to get there,” he adds.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s second MX1 rider Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont suffered another niggling injury, which hampered his performance. He hurt his thumb in practice and alternated between trying to strap it and leaving it unsupported, as he struggled through a painful three races, finishing fourth each time.

“Overall my day was another survival day. My glute injury [incurred at the Woodville GP] is pretty decent now and I’m not having too many problems with it. I’m just fighting small injuries most rounds, which is quite frustrating,” Lamont says.

Coppins describes the Fernhill track as “really challenging.”

“It got very rough and technical with deep ruts, but it really suited our riders, with a lot of lines available. I expected a good result at this track and was happy we were able to execute one.”

“The final race was red-flagged, and the results were taken as they stood due to an accident. Our Altherm JCR Yamaha team wishes the injured rider a speedy recovery,” Coppins concludes.

1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 75
2nd Cody Cooper – 64
3rd Hamish Harwood – 62
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 54
5th Brad Groombridge – 46

1st Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 65
2nd Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 65
3rd James Scott – 58
4th Josiah Natzke- 53
5th Caleb Ward – 53


2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship
Round One – Balclutha, 1st February 2020
Round Two – Rotorua, 23rd February 2020
Round Three – Hawkes Bay, 1st March 2020
Round Four – Taupo, 15th March 2020

Altherm Window Systems, JCR, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, bLU cRU, YMF, YMI, Holland Collision Centre, Ward Demolition, Star Moving, Contract Consultants, Fox, Workshop Graphics, Akrapovic, Motoseat, Motomuck, Vertex Pistons, SKF, Renthal, DID Chains & Twin Air.

Words by Altherm JCR Yahama, Photos CLMINTIEPIX

The 2019 KX450 was a bolt out of the blue. Without any real hype, we suddenly saw a brand-new machine with all the big-hitting goodness that any green-blooded rider could hope for. Now we ride the 2020 version, and not only does it feel radioactive, it looks it too.

This is certainly one of those colour schemes that will go down in history as memorable. For good or for bad, the 2020 KX450 has gone all green. The traditional colours you would expect for the airbox/mudflap combo have been changed to green, as are the number boards – leaving no one in any doubt as to what brand of bike this is. Kawasaki are obviously proud of their identity as the mean green racing machines and it is something that goes far beyond the way that their bikes look. Our test at Pirinis left me in no doubt as to how intense this new bike has become.

Green Dragon

I was given a baptism by fire. My bike had come equipped with the aggressive EFI coupling and I had not thought to check or ask about it. After all, the maps don’t usually make too much of a difference anyway – or at least I thought. Well, I can tell you that the power was so instant that it almost felt like I was riding a monster with the sneezles. Even in the higher gears – as I tend to ride when wanting to tame a bike down, it still felt so responsive that I could swear the engine almost prophesized what my throttle hand was about to do and jumped in with both guns blazing.

It wasn’t until after the bike’s owner had ridden the bike himself and exclaimed that he didn’t know how I had been able to ride it that we changed couplers back to the stock setting, where I discovered a much more manageable machine. Not that you would call it mild-mannered, mind you.

There were a million changes to the engine last year that could have contributed to it having such good response. Well, too many to list here without losing your attention. An interesting side-note that I discovered while researching this bike is that it actually makes less power than the previous generation of KX450 up until fairly high in the rev range, and yet you would swear it makes oodles more power the whole way through.

What it produces is a power delivery that most people will get a hoot out of. In saying that, it will pay to use the softer EFI coupler any time you are worried about your arms not being up to the challenge. This is definitely a bike where you want to take note of which map you are using in order to get maximum enjoyment from your ride. If you are in softer soil and your arms can handle it, then feel free to go for the aggressive coupler. But most mere mortals on normal tracks will be better on the stock or easy map, especially in slippery sections like some of what we had at Pirini.


Mr Muscles

Fortunately, the track had dried enough to give the suspension a thorough flogging as well. Not surprisingly I was pleased with the plushness of those beautiful 49mm spring forks. Aside from the bliss of not needing to bend my brain on all that was entailed in the old air forks if something wasn’t quite right, what I like most is how smooth the spring forks work through the middle of the stroke. But there was one reservation.

These forks were susceptible to blowing through the stroke on harder hits, to the point of bottoming. While you could effectively go up a spring rate or two with air forks by pumping the pressure up, on spring forks it is more serious of a job and something of an expense. Personally, I think the effort and expense of going to a heavier fork spring would be worth it in my case, partly because of my penchant for some pretty extreme G-forces, but also because of something that has everything to do with the rear of this bike.

We noticed that the shock felt over sprung. Checking the sag, everything seemed pretty good, but on the track, it just felt like the rear overwhelmed the front a little. You might think that you wouldn’t notice it, but there was more to it than only bottoming the fork. I mainly noticed it under sharp accelerating bumps where the rear didn’t squat nicely, and while it didn’t really bother me much, it was an indication that the balance could do with some tuning. I remember that last year we went five or six clicks firmer on the fork compression and rebound while we only made the shock a little bit harder. For this test we could have also given the bike a wee bit more sag, but that could have been at the risk of losing one of the best things about this generation of KX450 – which is how well it turns.


For many years the biggest Kawasaki was extremely stable. It would brush aside any potential threat of being kicked sideways as though swatting a fly, but its Kryptonite was tight turns. Fortunately, the engineers have been able to find a happy place that allows the big green to turn better than ever. Want to cut inside that rut? Go for it. This bike wouldn’t be your first choice for some of the tighter tracks found in the North Island, but it will get the job done and really reward you on the faster or softer sections.

On a similar vein, Kawasaki are on a seemingly endless quest to make their bikes narrower to help in that quest for flickability. Last year it was the area between radiator shrouds that received that treatment. It is now to the point of feeling more like a 250cc machine between your knees – especially when standing – and that is helped even more with possibly the smoothest and most rounded plastics found on any brand.

There is simply nothing for your boots or knees to get caught up on. I wonder if Eli Tomac himself had something to do with this, who just won his third consecutive AMA Motocross Championship aboard this machine. I say that because I think he had a problem with getting caught up on the shrouds of his previous bike and this bike takes smoothness to the extreme. Not only do the radiator shrouds curve like a VW Beetle over the top and around the front, but they also extend in one unbroken strip almost to the back of the seat. That is not to say that the ergonomics will completely suit everyone’s tastes.

There is something rather quirky about the handlebars. They don’t seem to have much of a sweep backwards, encouraging you to get over the front of the bike more. That can be a good thing if you stand a lot as Eli does, but can make the bike feel a bit restrictive to sit on. The handlebars also feel like they are on the tall side. They are a crossbar style handlebar, which could easily be swapped out for a tapered version, but you will want to test and see if all the gadgets on the left handlebar will fit first.

Techy Bits

Competing for room with the left handlebar grip is a kill switch, launch control button and hydraulic unit for the clutch that dominates the space. A tapered handlebar might struggle to fit all of those things, but that is not to say we are complaining about any of it.

Having a hydraulic clutch has no doubt been the tipping point that Kawasaki needed to bring some people back to their side. It promises a smooth pull at all times in all conditions – which could be the silver bullet should conditions get extreme. I wouldn’t say that the pull is noticeably lighter than a cable would be, you just know that it isn’t going to fade. In saying that, any riders that always have their pointing finger resting on the clutch will want to be careful that they are not unconsciously slipping the clutch at the risk of burning it out before its time. It is slipping the moment you put any pressure on it, which is another one of the reasons why this bike feels like such an extreme racing machine.

Not only is the clutch and throttle super sensitive, the brakes are definitely cut from the same cloth. Coming into a rut I was made well aware that finesse was essential, both to avoid locking the rear and also to avoid the front brakes pulling me up too quickly. What it creates is an incredibly fun machine that takes the idea of “Racing Machine” to the extreme. Because everything is so responsive, very quickly you learn to respect and appreciate its aggressive attitude. This bike is guaranteed to give you the grin factor, which is good because very few people just use these bikes to get from A to B. We do it for adrenaline, which the 2020 KX450 delivers in spades.

By now you may have noticed that I have not told you about many changes for 2020. The reason is that there are simply no changes for this year apart from the green plastics. Yes, a lot of their R&D time and effort would have gone into the development of the new KX250F, but I am sure that had they been sure about the need to change something on this bike then they would have done it. You could look at it like this – they were careful enough to test the new bike so completely last year that it didn’t need any improvements. It could be some peace of mind to many people. Kawasaki dealers across the country also get a second chance to either sell or order more of what is essentially the same bike according to customer demand. And by now most people will know what kind of adjustments they would want to make to one of these bikes – if any.

I hopped on for one more ride, pushed that magical button to fire it into life and gave the launch control another test. Now that we had installed the green EFI coupler I was riding a more manageable bike.

But something within me wanted to go back to the wildness of the white coupling and the intensity of a racing start without the launch control – despite the fact that both decisions would cost me. Deep down, most dirt bikers share the desire to feel like they are on a Factory Race Team bike. Kawasaki might as well bring it out pre-printed with number one plates. Whether or not it is the right machine to propel you to earning that position depends on your desire. Eli Tomac has already proven that the bike can do it, and the cool thing is that I am pretty sure that this bike will make you feel like you could too.

Even an unaccustomed crash at the weekend could do little to derail Tauranga teenager Brodie Connolly in his bid to win the senior 125cc motocross championships crown.

The 16-year-old Husqvarna rider from Tauranga was unbeatable at the 59th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in January, untouchable in the 125cc class on both days of racing at that iconic event, and he carried on his winning ways at the first of four rounds in the 2020 New Zealand Motocross Championships in Balclutha a week later.

He showed up Rotorua on Sunday for round two of the championships, unloaded his LMC Racing Team Husqvarna TC125 and proceeded to qualify the bike 1.7 seconds a lap faster than the next quickest rider during the morning session.

Connolly therefore again looked to be comfortably heading towards a hat-trick of wins in the afternoon.

The first two 125cc races at Rotorua went according to plan, Connolly snatching the lead both times and leading every lap until the finish, Aucklander Cobie Bourke, who had been the second-fastest qualifier, finishing runner-up on both occasions.

Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (LMC Racing Team Husqvarna TC125), with a massive lead in the 125cc class title chase

But then disaster struck for Connolly as he was caught in traffic at the start of the day’s final 125cc race and, in a bold bid to quickly re-assert himself, he collided with another rider and hit the dirt hard.

Then came a remarkable and brave ride as Connolly picked himself up in last place and set off after the leaders.

He picked off one rider after another and then, with the race drawing to an end he decided to settle for a runner-up finish, crossing the line behind Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, and satisfied that he had still be able to extend his championship points lead.

“I backed off near the end of the race because I didn’t want to risk crashing again and maybe not finishing,” said Connolly.

“I went straight to hospital after the final race because I’d hurt my finger pretty bad in the crash,” Connolly revealed. “There is a small break in the bone, but nothing major and I’ll be okay for the next round.”

Connolly had started the day in Rotorua on top of the standings, nine points clear of Dixon. He ended the day in Rotorua a whopping 37 points ahead of the new No.2 rider in the class, Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, and Connolly remains in a confident mood as the championships now head to Fernhill, in Hawke’s Bay, for round three this coming Sunday (March 1).

“Madoc and Cobie have both had a few problems at Balclutha or Rotorua and they have both dropped points, so there’s really no pressure on me,” said Connolly.

It could be said there was never any pressure on Connolly anyway, so dominant has he been, with five wins now from six starts in the series thus far.

“I have raced before at Fernhill. I won the junior 11-12 years’ 85cc title there in 2016, so I’m looking forward to this coming weekend.”

Connolly is supported by LMC Husqvarna, Elevate Roofing, un4seen Decals, CFX, Pirelli, Shift MX, Motorex, FMF, Scott, Pro Taper, WP Suspension, Acerbis, EBC, DID Chains, UNI, Motomuck, Flight Path, SIDI, G2 Throttles, Tamer Hole Shot Device, EZE Race Products, Vortex Ignitions and Serval Machinery Repairs.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan